Correll Buckhalter, Eagles Defense Must Step Up to Beat 49ers

Benjamin MorganContributor IOctober 11, 2008

With Brian Westbrook ruled out for the Eagles' game against the 49ers with broken ribs, the pressure will fall to Donovan McNabb to carry the team. If the Eagles hope to win on Sunday, they must receive efforts from Correll Buckhalter and the defense to take pressure off of their quarterback.

Westbrook brings versatility and unpredictability to the Eagles' offense, often lining up as a receiver or running a route out of the backfield. He has averaged 3.7 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per reception, not counting the week three game against Pittsburgh, in which he had only five carries before leaving the game early with an injured ankle. Westbrook has also crossed the goal line six times.

Buckhalter has been with the Eagles since he was drafted in 2001. Multiple major knee surgeries have presumably robbed Buckhalter of some of his agility and speed, but regardless, he needs to contribute on a Westbrook level to keep San Francisco's defense honest. While he did contribute to the Eagles' victory against Pittsburgh, gaining 87 yards on a total of 16 touches (10 carries, six receptions), he failed to score on a crucial 3rd-and-goal run on the one-yard line against the Chicago Bears, a game that ended with a victory for Chicago.

The Eagles' defense must step up and shut down the 49ers' offense if the Eagles' offense fails to be effective. In a game last week against the Washington Redskins the Eagles jumped to a quick 14-0 lead, but the offense failed to reach the end zone for the rest of the game, and David Akers missed a 50-yard field goal and hit one from 23.

The defense started strong as well, but failed to shut down Clinton Portis in the second half. On a key 4th-and-1 late in the fourth quarter they failed to stuff the run and, because they were out of timeouts, Redskins QB Jason Campbell was able to kneel the ball to end the game.             

Philadelphia's defense faces another premier running back this week in Frank Gore. The Eagles' linebackers and defensive line must neutralize Gore and the running game and force quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan to beat their secondary, which includes cornerbacks Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, Lito Sheppard, and free safety Brian Dawkins.